They are the winners of the prestigious British literary prize Booker Prize: the Canadian writers Margaret Atwood and Anglo-Nigerian Bernardine Evaristo were awarded respectively for Wills and for Girl, Woman, Other, named best works of fiction in English of the year.
Already crowned 19 years ago, the Canadian novelist and poet Margaret Atwood is this time rewarded for Wills, the eagerly awaited sequel to The Scarlet Handmaid (The Handmaid’s Tale), a terrifying misogynistic dystopia that has emerged as a true feminist manifesto in the era of the #MeeToo movement.
The book The Scarlet Handmaid, published in 1985, became a successful TV series in 2017 that boosted sales of the novel, the English edition of which reached eight million copies worldwide. Often cited for the Nobel Prize in Literature, Margaret Atwood, 79, has already won the Booker Prize in 2000 for her historical novel The Blind Killer. “I am very surprised, I would have thought that I am too old”, reacted Margaret Atwood, who wore a badge of the environmental movement Extinction Rebellion.
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Evaristo, “the first black woman to win this award”
The Booker Prize 2019 was also awarded to Anglo-Nigerian Bernardine Evaristo for Girl, Woman, Other (not translated into French), chronicle of the life of black families in Great Britain. “I am the first black woman to win this award,” responded Bernardine Evaristo, 60, who deemed “incredible” to share the award with a “legend” such as Margaret Atwood.
Bernardine Evaristo’s novel is divided into as many chapters as there are characters, mainly black women from several backgrounds and generations, against the backdrop of a permanent questioning of color and racism, in the relationship to culture and sex. From Barbados to Nigeria, all the protagonists meet in London with a family bond, friendship or esteem.
Four women in the final
This is the third time since its inception 50 years ago that the prize has crowned two books simultaneously, after 1974 and 1997. The rules have since evolved, in principle preventing such a configuration, but according to jury president Peter Florence, ” the situation demanded to choose these two books “. Launched in 1969, the Booker Prize annually rewards the author of the “best novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom” of 50,000 books (around 57,200 euros) shared between the two winners.
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The two writers said they were delighted to share the prize. Bernardine Evaristo explained that this reward would be used to repay her loan, Margaret Atwood indicating that she would donate it to a charity. Last year, writer Anna Burns was the first Northern Irish woman to win the award, for her novel Milkman. Among the six finalists selected this year were four women.
American Lucy Ellmann was selected for Ducks, Newburyport, a 1,000-page long-running novel built around the monologue of a housewife from Ohio, declined in one sentence almost without interruption. Elif Shafak, Turkey’s most read writer, was in contention with 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World, on the memories of a prostitute in the slums of Istanbul.
A price open to all English-speaking countries
Winner of the prestigious prize too, in 1981 for Midnight Children, Salman Rushdie, 72, was selected for Quixote, modern version of the picaresque epic of Cervantes’ hero transposed to America. Finally, Nigerian Chigozie Obioma competed with The Minority Orchestra (An Orchestra of Minorities), dedicated to a chicken farmer in a small town in Nigeria. It is “a tale of Odyssian proportions that makes your heart beat,” according to jury member Afua Hirsch. The author had already been nominated in 2015.
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Until 2013, the Booker Prize was reserved for nationals of Commonwealth states, before opening the following year to other English-speaking countries.
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Writers Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo win Booker Prize